Published September 5, 2019
JONESBORO—Helena Frazier, a May graduate of the master’s program in church management at Villanova University, is already applying what she learned during the intensive two-year program.
The parish business manager at St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, Frazier enrolled in the master’s program at the encouragement of the church’s pastor, Father John Koziol, OFM, Conv. The parish community also backed her during the journey.
“I don’t know if I would have done any of this without St. Philip Benizi,” said Frazier. “They gave me strength, guidance and support.”
Villanova’s School of Business offers both a Master of Science degree and a less rigorous certificate program in church management.
Training for parish administrative staff was a goal established in the archdiocese’s 2015 Pastoral Plan under the category of “Evolution of Our Parishes.” Enabling qualified laity or deacons to take on parish administration helps priests focus on providing the sacraments and catechesis.
Frazier has a Master of Business Administration from Saint Leo University and a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Western Governors University.
After joining the parish staff more than three years ago, Frazier learned of the certificate program of Villanova’s while attending an archdiocesan Parish and School Insight Conference (P+SIC) and completed it.
Her priest then suggested what a wonderful opportunity the master’s level program would be for Frazier. She too realized there was more to learn.
“I’m forever grateful to Father John for encouraging me,” she said.
The master’s courses cover topics including leadership in religious organizations, civil and church laws, financial oversight and human resource management in a ministry setting. The program includes a one-week residency on the Villanova University campus in Pennsylvania. After the residency, all courses are provided online, enabling students to study from afar.
Frazier met her fellow students during the residency week and attended Mass.
“We really built a bond with each other,” she said of the other students. “That’s another huge benefit.”
She met students from Ghana, Nigeria and some who work at the Vatican. The students supported one another along the way.
Frazier, who has a ten-year-old daughter, Kenya, said the program instructors recognize the challenge for students who have jobs and families.
“The human element was very understood,” she said. Frazier was able to complete the master’s program with a grade point average of 3.6.
“I felt so loved and accepted by my peers and my professor and just the entire Villanova community,” she said.
Frazier called her daughter a “study buddy.”
On May 18, 42 members of the Master of Science in Church Management program graduated. In the excitement of the day, Frazier could not remember where she had parked her rental car on the sprawling Villanova campus, and another family drove her around until she located it. She traveled by herself to the graduation, but Frazier never felt alone. The mother of another classmate laid hands upon Frazier when it came time to pray for the graduates.
The program helped Frazier learn more about the importance of being a good financial steward and of spirituality in parish management.
“Without the Holy Spirit, none of this is possible. It has to be the most important focus,” she said.
In addition to her full-time position, Frazier coordinates the parish’s performing arts ministry and is involved in other ministries. She is now writing a book to assist other parish administrators.
Frazier was not raised Catholic and recalls her spiritual journey toward the church.
“I came in through the RCIA program. The parish became my family,” she said. “I didn’t know what love was until I came to St. Philip.”
She has already used newly acquired communication skills in service to the community and in working on a combined ministry vision statement.
Along the way, she found that issues being studied in the church management courses would coincide with something that needed addressing at St. Philip Benizi. Listening and collaboration have become more significant in her role.
“I used to think that collaborate meant procrastination,” she said. Frazier now knows otherwise.
It’s about “how to find an option C” when A and B won’t work, she noted. “We have to be more pastoral.”
In the monthly newsletter “Be-News-Zi,” Father Koziol thanked and congratulated Frazier.
“I am very grateful to Helena for all that she contributes to our parish family,” he wrote. “She has done a great job in our finance office.”
Certificate grads announced
In addition to the Master of Science in Church Management program, Villanova University’s School of Business also offers a certificate program.
The certificate program involves a webcasts and coursework on topics such as management in mission-driven churches, financial reporting and security.
More than 40 individuals in the archdiocese have earned certificates since 2016 including priests, deacons and laypeople.
The most recent certificate graduates in the Archdiocese of Atlanta were: Susan Shirley, Finance Office of the Archdiocese of Atlanta; Anne DeCaro, Finance Office, Archdiocese of Atlanta; Brandy Lake, business manager at St. Anna Church, Monroe; and Kathleen Daigle, accountant at Holy Family Church, Marietta.
The archdiocese offers a sponsorship program for one person per parish to earn the certificate. Fifteen people are currently enrolled.
Learn more at osv.com/villanova.